Hello and welcome to my stop on the A Modern Family blog tour. I’m delighted to be able to share an extract from the book with you!
The meat is bloody, the red liquid seeps out from between the fibres of the veal fillet as my fork pierces the steak’s crust. I do my best not to compare it to the blood I awoke to this morning, large streaks of red staining the bedsheets and my underwear and my thighs. My body is trying to make a point, I told Simen as I pulled off the bedsheets while he still lay in the bed. Don’t even bother trying, that’s what it’s saying, I’m here to show you that the more you hope, the more unequivocally I’ll refuse you, tell you no, not a bloody chance of it, I muttered quickly under my breath. I didn’t cry this time, not like last month.
Last month, twenty-nine days ago, we awoke to cloud cover and cold rain in Oslo.
The beams of sunlight that shone through the window and illuminated my body as I showered this morning, the scent of the sea and the slightly spicy fragrance of our natural surroundings here in Italy made this setback slightly easier to deal with. It’s Dad’s birthday, after all, I said to Simen after the blood and my initial reaction to its appearance had washed away down the plughole. Either way, I have to pretend as if nothing’s amiss, I just have to suppress it. Yes, he replied, we just have to make the best of the day ahead; he held me close, a long embrace, and I felt as if I could smell the disappointment where my head rested at the hollow of his neck.
I extricated myself from his embrace and left the room without looking at him, making my way to the kitchen where Hedda was the first to meet my gaze. I tried to avoid eye contact, did my best not to lose my composure because she’s always reminded me of what I don’t have; over the past year I’ve felt myself on the verge of being so furious with Hedda that I don’t know what to do with myself; it comes out of nowhere, sudden and explosive, and I can do nothing but remov myself from the situation. It’s totally unacceptable, I haven’t even mentioned it to Simen, I realise how unfair and petty and embarrassing it is.
Today I chose to make jam for her instead, mostly to have a dig at Liv, exaggerating the sweetness, which Liv and Olaf seem more afraid of than anything else in life. And for once it helped to be close to her, to stroke Hedda’s smooth hair, her soft skin, to see her so thrilled with the jam that was so sweet it was virtually inedible, the jam I’d made just for her.
It also helped to spend five thousand kroner on a handbag, leaving my conscience to busy itself with something else altogether. It helped to leave Simen back at the house with my family, and it helped knowing that he’d spend his morning playing in the pool with Agnar and Hedda – the easy way out, but even so. It helped to stroll around the square in the old town, to buy meat and vegetables with Liv, it helped to talk about anything else, about dinner, about the fact that Dad was turning seventy. I used to wonder what he’d look like when he was old, back when I was a girl, Liv said. How he’d look when he was seventy, you know, because that would make him ancient. Maybe I didn’t even imagine he’d live that long, she continued. But it turns out he’s just the same as he ever was.
I don’t agree that Dad is the same, he’s become an amplified version of himself – a caricature, in a way, as I attempted to explain to Simen before we left for Italy. Most people are like that, Simen said. They become parodies of themselves towards the end, whether they want to or not. I wonder why that is, I said, if it’s because people are getting ready to kick the bucket and feel the need to leave a lasting impressionof themselves before they disappear, maybe, to make sure those of us left behind remember them more distinctly. Simen laughed, I daren’t imagine what you’ll be like when you hit seventy, he said, you’re already a caricature of yourself. But then, we all become more self-centred with age, so perhaps I won’t even notice, he added.
Simen and I have been together for over a year now, and to this day I remain pathetically relieved whenever I hear him speak about a distant future that includes me, which depicts the two of us together. He’s the only person who’s created a fear that they might walk out on me; in previous relationships, there’s always been a part of me that’s hoped that the person I’ve been with would grow bored of things before I did; I’ve wished for less security in relationships rather than giving in to puppyish reliance and dependence. Now I’d love to feel more secure in my relationship with Simen, secure in the knowledge he’ll stay with me in spite of my body’s efforts to sabotage us, but Simen gives no guarantees.
I was surprised when he accepted the invitation to come to Italy with my family. I’ve never quite been able to tell whether he likes them or not, he always seems nervous and uncomfortable around them, he overcompensates and becomes boastful and envious when we’re with them – particularly when Dad’s around. I’ve tried joking about it, told him there’s no need to compete with my father, if that’s what he’s trying to do, but it’s one of the few things Simen won’t laugh about, and it’s clear he’s not able to do so.
Am I not allowed to touch you in front of your family? he’s asked me in the past. Most of the time he has other plans when I ask him if he wants to come for dinner at Mum and Dad’s, or to join in with any other activities that involve spending time with my family. I found it strange at first, past boyfriends have almost seemed keener than me to spend time with them, but after a while I realised that he probably felt the same way I did: I like Simen’s family, but I prefer my own.
Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on the blog tour and to Karen Sullivan for sending me a copy of the book.
It’s not long now until you can read the whole book yourself, A Modern Family is published on the 21st June, but for now follow the rest of the blog tour, below.